Author: Ms. Amita Puranik ( puranikamita@gmail.com )

Freaking out by a cluster of holes and uneven patterns

Do you feel disgusted and/or uneasy while viewing at honeycombs or strawberries? The question may seem to be stupid but, seriously, take a moment to picturise closely bound small holes. If you are brave enough, you may also try googling for the notorious ‘lotus-flower-seed-head’. Did you suddenly feel loathed or kind of throwing-up with the sight of those pictures? Probably yes, and that is what we are trying to point out. When this reflex itself has got unnoticed then what could be the chance of people being aware of this condition called – ‘Trypophobia’?  Even I was never bothered about this term until I accidentally gazed an image with a cluster of holes on a palm, getting viral on social media, and that disgusting reflux I felt in that moment made me dig further on this unholy topic of trypophobia!

Trypophobia

Trypophobia is a fear response or an aversion to a cluster of holes or uneven patterns. The story of the baptism of this condition is as scrappy as self-diagnosis or self-realization of having this phobia. In 2005, a blogger named Louis discussed with a spokesperson of Oxford English dictionary for the correctness of combining a Greek ancient word – trypa meaning “holes” with phobia meaning “fear”. Since then the topic got popularity on social media. Trypophobia is not recognized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association  (DSM–5). Hence there is no specific diagnosis for it. However, depending upon a person’s response in terms of just disgust or fear with significant distress, it may be categorized as a specific phobia.

Some of the reported triggers for trypophobia include – bubbles, bubble wrap, condensation, holes in diseased or decaying flesh, insect eyes, honeycombs, fruit seeds, lotus seed pods, some fruits such as – Strawberries, pomegranate, etc. Synthetic materials or man-made patterns or animals with spotted or patterned coats can also trigger trypophobia. The symptoms of trypophobia include emotional distress, anxiety or fear, itching, nausea, goosebumps, sweating, rapid breathing, shaking, panic attack, etc. 

Trypophobia Research and Treatment

Research in this area suggests that trypophobia is an evolutionary response to alert a person for the presence of danger such as a venomous animal, a parasite, or an infectious disease. People with depression or anxiety issues are more likely to have trypophobia. While there is no specific treatment for trypophobia, other common treatments for phobias might be employed in cases of emergency situations. 

Self-help treatments or taking the help of therapists or counselors to implement the required lifestyle changes, cognitive-behavioral-therapy (CBT), exposure therapy (desensitization), or relaxation techniques could be helpful if the fear and/or discomfort persists or grows. These strategies, however, may or may not be helpful as they have varying success rates. In case of emergencies, doctors may prescribe medications such as anti-depressants, tranquilizers, or beta-blockers, generally used in the treatment of phobias and anxiety issues.     

Studies suggest that trypophobia is more powerful when the holes and/or uneven patterns are witnessed on the skin or other body parts rather than on inanimate objects such as rocks.  In 2017, trypophobia received huge public attention and criticism when an ‘American Horror Story’ used a trypophobic character with a trypophobia-inducing advertisement for promotion. Similarly, the release of Apple’s ‘iPhone 11 Pro’ in September 2019 featuring 3 closely spaced camera lenses also received comments for the product triggering their trypophobia. 

REFERENCES:

1. https://www.self.com/story/trypophobia-fear-of-holes 

2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320512#treatment 

3. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797613484937 

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trypophobia 

5. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/nov/19/whats-behind-a-phobia-of-holes 

6. https://www.verywellmind.com/trypophobia-4687678 

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